Obama administration pushes for faster Ebola test

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday announced a contract to develop a faster test for Ebola, as well as grants for nine regional treatment centers.

HHS announced a $1.8 million deal with a Pennsylvania company, OraSure, to develop a faster test to diagnose Ebola that provides results within 20 minutes. The procedure uses a drop of blood or saliva on a test strip.

Though Ebola has now faded from the public conversation in the U.S., a Texas hospital official testified in October that the 24-hour wait for results of a test was part of the problem in the response to Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient in the U.S.

{mosads}His case, and the subsequent spread of the virus to two nurses, set off fears of a public outbreak. 

“Fast and inexpensive point-of-care diagnostics will improve our ability to control Ebola virus disease outbreaks,” Robin Robinson, an HHS research official, said in a statement. “Faster diagnosis of Ebola virus infections allows for more immediate treatment and an earlier response to protect public health worldwide.”

HHS is also seeking proposals for the development of new drugs to treat Ebola. 

Separately, the agency is awarding $20 million to nine hospitals in different regions across the country to enhance their ability to treat patients with Ebola and other highly infectious diseases. 

The funding is part of the $339.5 million in emergency funding for Ebola preparedness that Congress appropriated following the Ebola scare in the fall.

While the Ebola situation in West Africa has improved, the U.N. warned Thursday that the number of new cases, 31, increased for the second straight week. There have been more than 11,000 deaths.

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